Scott Tennant's thumb under tremolo technique

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guit-box
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Scott Tennant's thumb under tremolo technique

Post by guit-box » Thu Jul 21, 2016 5:37 am

Does anyone else find this tremolo technique surprising? I had always practiced (and been taught) to keep the thumb outside the fingers, but it sure works well for Scott to let the thumb go under the index finger and touch the middle finger at times. I may have to give this some practice time and see if it works for me.

[media]https://youtu.be/vp5PIkeqA4Y[/media]
There's a good closeup at around 1:20 min, and you can slow it down with the settings wheel
An eyewitness will often only see what he already believes to be true.

John Ross

Re: Scott Tennant's thumb under tremolo technique

Post by John Ross » Thu Jul 21, 2016 5:14 pm

guit-box wrote:Does anyone else find this tremolo technique surprising?
Not really. His posture, on the other hand, looks positively wacky. Expect it's just me.

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Re: Scott Tennant's thumb under tremolo technique

Post by guitarrista » Thu Jul 21, 2016 5:45 pm

guit-box wrote:Does anyone else find this tremolo technique surprising? I had always practiced (and been taught) to keep the thumb outside the fingers, but it sure works well for Scott to let the thumb go under the index finger and touch the middle finger at times. I may have to give this some practice time and see if it works for me.
Scott (not pictured) has adapted his technique to the type of thumb shape and joint movement he has(*). His thumb is relatively straight and is more folded into the palm from the big joint (third from the tip, i.e. equivalent to the knuckle joint for other fingers). Contrast with Pepe Romero's thumb (pictured) which seems longer, is not folded into the palm from the third joint, and has a significant curve away in its last phalange.
Capture.JPG
Many other guitarists , like Ana Vidovic (pictured below), have a pronounced natural 'kink' at their second thumb joint which also helps them keep their thumb away from the other fingers when playing.
Capture.JPG
The posture you have been taught may or may not suite your anatomy. This is an example of advice given (and enforced - by the way it is presented as absolute rule) which does not get to the reason or principles behind why that particular posture suits (some) guitarists - and thus can be detrimental to those whom it does not suit. Do examine your thumb and hand anatomy and see what works for you, and don't hesitate to change your current posture if needed.

My own thumb is much more similar to Scott's than to Pepe's or to Ana's (definitely no 'kink' at the second joint) so my tremolo setup is close to Scott's as a consequence.

(*) These are not the only factors. The thumb nail shape (in both directions), the angle it strikes the string, the 3D shape of the thumb itself under the nail all matter when finding the best posture, given your anatomy, which produces your preferred tone.
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Last edited by guitarrista on Thu Jul 21, 2016 6:52 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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guit-box
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Re: Scott Tennant's thumb under tremolo technique

Post by guit-box » Thu Jul 21, 2016 6:41 pm

Very interesting observations guitarrista. My thumb looks most like Scott's (straighter) but with maybe even a little more folding into the hand than his -- from the tip joint. For my thumb to be absolutely straight I have to hold the tip joint extended a little. I've always felt it difficult and forced for me to keep the thump away from the fingers and maybe this is the reason and I should stop trying to force it into a rule that only applies to some hands.
An eyewitness will often only see what he already believes to be true.

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Re: Scott Tennant's thumb under tremolo technique

Post by Luis_Br » Tue Jul 26, 2016 11:56 pm

I think thumb in results fuller sound with more contact area and some sort of finger sliping, but thumb out also helps separating voices through color or using flesh.
Thumb out seems much easier, to me, in the difficult task of muting unwanted ressonances (easier to use the side of the finger or thumb pad).
It is better if you master all the possibilities and apply according to the musical context.

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Re: Scott Tennant's thumb under tremolo technique

Post by guit-box » Wed Jul 27, 2016 12:42 am

One other thing that surprised me about his letting the thumb go under the index is that he talks about having "swing space" for the fingers into the palm on his pumping nylon video. But you can see his index finger has to work with the thumb being in its way and consequently he's using more simultaneous middle joint flexion with knuckle joint extension on the index finger. That said, people talk about swing space and demonstrate it in lessons, but I never see anyone flexing the knuckle joint into the palm much in practice.
An eyewitness will often only see what he already believes to be true.

Robbie Flamerock
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Re: Scott Tennant's thumb under tremolo technique

Post by Robbie Flamerock » Wed Jul 27, 2016 3:31 am

Keep in mind that Pumping Nylon is pretty old, before his injury forced him to play off of his right leg. This is a game changer. Judging by how he has to balance the guitar, I imagine that his new position limits his positioning for various timbral choices.

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Re: Scott Tennant's thumb under tremolo technique

Post by guit-box » Wed Jul 27, 2016 4:36 am

You make an interesting point so I went back and compared the Pumping Nylon tremolo from 1995 with the 2016 versions and he does the same thing. Thumb goes under the index, restricting the swing space of the index finger, and at times touching the middle finger.

[media]https://youtu.be/MaoI6fZ5NWo[/media] 1995 Pumping Nylon tremolo demo

I also looked at other players doing tremolo and several of them also let the thumb go under the index finger: David Russell, Ana Vidovic, Kaori Muraji, Denis Azabagic (just barely thumb intersects under index), Adam Del Monte

John Williams seems to keep his thumb away from the fingers and Pepe Romero mostly does as well
An eyewitness will often only see what he already believes to be true.

Robbie Flamerock
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Re: Scott Tennant's thumb under tremolo technique

Post by Robbie Flamerock » Wed Jul 27, 2016 4:07 pm

Good call. I notice that if I tuck my thumb under my fingers and play an arpeggio the coordination is markedly greater for the fingers. Good cumbersome to turn into a method, however.

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Re: Scott Tennant's thumb under tremolo technique

Post by Robbie Flamerock » Wed Jul 27, 2016 4:07 pm

Too cumbersome, I mean!

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Re: Scott Tennant's thumb under tremolo technique

Post by guit-box » Wed Jul 27, 2016 4:44 pm

Yes, I believe this is because it's forcing your fingers to work in a way that restricts the follow-through of the knuckle joint and actually forces it to extend while the middle and tip joints are in flexion -- which is what I see every player actually doing, regardless of them teaching to have lots of "swing space". Clearly many players do tremolo with the thumb under, you can search all the names I mentioned and slow down the close-ups of their tremolo, but there are players who bend their wrists toward the bridge and those players seem to keep the thumb clear of the fingers, but I think it's because of that position more than a conscious effort. So, it would be incorrect to say this is how everyone should do tremolo, but it's relevant in the sense that most of us have been taught to keep the thumb outside the fingers and leave room for more swing space -- both of which we can see in the videos is not always the case in a professional level tremolo.

[media]https://youtu.be/HPahRZ5EqLU[/media]
The swing space he's demonstrating here I'm sure can work for some situations, but for fast free stroke passages, I don't see any players following-through from the large knuckle. They follow through from the other joints while the knuckle is re-positioning.

[media]https://youtu.be/rGAF7Mbs2gI[/media]
Here's a slow motion clip from that original tremolo video of Scott Tennant from Pumping Nylon 2016
An eyewitness will often only see what he already believes to be true.

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Re: Scott Tennant's thumb under tremolo technique

Post by Johnny Geudel » Wed Jul 27, 2016 6:13 pm

Although I applaude your investigative efforts, it must be pointed out that, from visual inspection alone, one cannot draw definitive conclusions about the internal operations of fingers, hands and arms.
The questions you raise are brilliantly dealt with in:

- " la guitarra" , Pepe Romero, Tuscany publications, 2012 ( revised and expanded edition of the 1982 edition), Tampa, FL.

- " Classical guitar technique" ( 3 vol.), Richard Provost, third revised edition 2002 (vol 1), 2007 (vol 2), 1992 (vol 3), Professional Guitar Publications, Bloomfield, CT.

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Re: Scott Tennant's thumb under tremolo technique

Post by guit-box » Wed Jul 27, 2016 6:27 pm

I'm a fan of Pepe Romero and have the book, but have to say he's not very consistent with his language and language can be as confusing and more so than a visual. I agree with you that what something feels like and looks like can be in conflict. Pepe, unlike many teachers, talks about an orbit for the finger's trajectory, which I believe is spot on. I wouldn't mind reading the Provost methods, but I probably won't invest money in them because, frankly, I'm not that impressed with his playing. He's a fine player, but not at the level of Pepe or Scott or any of the other players I've posted videos of. I've been playing for almost 40 years now and have taken lessons with some great players and teachers. The videos are just one tool, lessons, tutorials, methods are others. Personally I found it very helpful to observe that many players allow the thumb to go under the fingers in tremolo because this is one place the methods and teachers failed me early on. Since learning this, I feel my tremolo is more on the right path and I don't need to artificially hold my thumb outside the fingers -- which always felt unnatural for my hand.
An eyewitness will often only see what he already believes to be true.

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Re: Scott Tennant's thumb under tremolo technique

Post by Johnny Geudel » Wed Jul 27, 2016 6:44 pm

I understand this perfectly since, as a consequence of unsuccessful revalidation after a car-accident, I can no longer flex the second joint of the RH-thumb. Tremolo was next to impossible until I adopted a ST-like postion.
Still, I very much recommend the Richard Provost ( as a complement to PR) books with regards to the problem at hand.

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Re: Scott Tennant's thumb under tremolo technique

Post by guit-box » Wed Jul 27, 2016 7:15 pm

Okay, I will consider your recommendation. How about sharing some specifics about what Provost says in relation to this topic?
An eyewitness will often only see what he already believes to be true.

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